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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Rethink

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As Forge turns one, we look back at the stories that helped us make sense of the last 12 months — and provide a blueprint for your future

Photo: Pradeep Kumar/EyeEm/Getty Images

One year ago, we introduced our new publication, and characterized its world like this:

“Self help” has come a long way, and in its current iteration we talk more about progress, bravery, and mindfulness; doing more, and being more creative. The field has become less gendered, more universal and global, and a whole lot more interesting than it once was.


How to make smarter, fairer choices about who does what

Photo: Peopleimages/E+/Getty Images

Around the world, dual-career families (which make up the majority of U.S. households today) are making hard choices about how to allocate their limited attention to work, childcare, housework, and other responsibilities. For those parents who have the privilege of remote or flexible work, getting to choose how to divide household labor may also allow biases to undermine smart, fair decision-making. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

This time gives us an opportunity to reframe the way we view gender and labor, and to make smarter choices about our routines. Drawing on our work as professors of management…


‘Truth number one about lying: Lying’s a cooperative act.’

An illustration of a woman struggling to carry a giant brain on her back.
An illustration of a woman struggling to carry a giant brain on her back.
Illustration: Thomas Hedger

When staff at the San Francisco Zoo heard an almighty noise coming from down the hall, they knew immediately that it had to be Koko.

Koko was an extraordinarily talented western lowland gorilla who had learned over 1,000 words in sign language, liked watching TV, and was fascinated by nipples.

But on this day in the early 1980s, Koko had become upset, and in her fury she had ripped a metal sink from the wall and thrown it to the ground.

And now, as she stared back at the shocked staff who had run to her, she knew she had…


Photography: Daniel Dorsa

Even if you’re a neat freak, embracing the mess might just be the key to unleashing your creativity

I admit it: I’m a neat freak. Before I can tackle a work project, I have to make sure everything around me is in its proper place. This has been especially true during quarantine, when the nonstop anxiety and total lack of control just make me want to fold sheets and reorganize all my glassware in size order.

Even during normal times, tidiness is my religion. I never have more than 10 tabs open at one time. …


A daily exercise to calm your anxious, distracted, and overwhelmed mind

A young woman closes her eyes and breathes in, coping with loneliness and isolation.
A young woman closes her eyes and breathes in, coping with loneliness and isolation.
Photo: Aleksander Nakic/E+/Getty Images

Your brain is like a dog. It can be trained. Most people just don’t know how.

Imagine a poorly trained dog. Whenever you take it for a walk, it pulls on its leash and barks at people. You haven’t established yourself as its leader, so it’s fearful and aggressive. You have no idea what it’s going to do next.

Now imagine a well-trained dog. It knows you’re in charge and follows your lead. It still acts like a dog — it sniffs around, greets other dogs, occasionally pulls on the leash — but these actions are manageable. …


Buddha and Kierkegaard are here to help

Photo: Gerolamo Auricchio/EyeEm/Getty Images

I came to philosophy seeking relief from melancholy and anxiety. But after years of study, as a student and a philosophy professor, I still have these feelings. I now believe that anxiousness is a crucial aspect of the human condition, and I must live with it — it’s a vital component of my ever-evolving self.

I hope philosophy can be of similar service to you. I think philosophy can help you accept that we will always feel anxiety. More importantly, it can help you understand that we don’t have to be anxious about being anxious.

Here are three simple truths…


The generation that’s redefining old age is now being redefined by a virus

Illustration: Heeje Min Heo

Late at night a few weeks ago, I was about to turn off the light when I decided instead to grab my phone and catch up on the latest coronavirus news. This was in the early days of the pandemic — before shelter-in-place orders hit the United States, and before people were practicing social distancing on any large scale. I wasn’t overly worried, but I was paying attention, especially because older adults—those 60 and above—seemed to be the most at risk.

That meant me, as strange as it felt to acknowledge. At 60, I’ve never thought of myself as old


If it works for C-suite execs, it might also come in handy at home, especially right now

A couple sits on a couch in front of a laptop while one person writes in their notebook.
A couple sits on a couch in front of a laptop while one person writes in their notebook.
Photo: chee gin tan/E+/Getty Images

By day three of our family quarantine, I was dangerously close to turning into a Gremlin.

In Gremlins, the 1984 comedy-horror masterpiece that Gen Xers like me watched through our fingers at childhood sleepovers, three simple rules keep the adorable creatures known as Mogwais from morphing into their evil alter egos, the Gremlins. Those rules were:

  1. Don’t expose them to bright lights.
  2. Don’t let them get wet.
  3. Don’t feed them after midnight.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but just know that when people don’t follow the ownership guidelines, stuff goes south fast.

About 36 years later…


Slowing down might feel uncomfortable right now. That’s exactly why it’s necessary.

One woman with her head in her hands, sitting alone at home, working on laptop.
One woman with her head in her hands, sitting alone at home, working on laptop.
Photo: South_agency/E+/Getty Images

In case you haven’t already gathered from recent viral tweets, Shakespeare apparently wrote King Lear while quarantined. Nearly a century later, according to said tweets, Isaac Newton allegedly used his time in quarantine to develop calculus.

The quarantine angle may be new, but at their core, these statements are just versions of a message we’ve already heard a thousand different ways, in a thousand different motivational tweets and Pinteresty quotes: “You have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé. Rise and grind.”

That’s where I found myself a few days ago, churning out emails at 11 p.m…


We’re often surprisingly good at things we don’t care that much about

Rear view of a woman in a red dress playing the piano.
Rear view of a woman in a red dress playing the piano.
Photo: Ariane Hoehne/EyeEm/Getty Images

Should you suddenly find yourself with more time on your hands, perhaps for pandemic-related reasons, consider this: Studies have found that enjoyable leisure activities are actually good for your health.

In this cultural moment when we’re all trying to be really good at a lot of things, it can be deeply freeing to just do something we don’t care that much about. For one, we tend to be better at those things.

I’ve heard plenty of other anecdotes from people who didn’t care about being successful in a particular area, only to find that disregard helped them nail it, from…

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